Space has long been considered humanity's final frontier. But for retired Air Force General Lester Lyles, it's just the final front. When it comes to observing the enemy, he explained recently, the farther out we are the better.
He made the remark during the 10th annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, a panel discussion which included scientists, professors, and engineers, as well as Lyles and Buzz Aldrin. The topic at hand was America's future in space, including the importance of a future manned mission to Mars.
"From a technical point of view, we're much closer to sending someone to Mars now than we were sending someone to the Moon in 1960," said Robert Zubrin, a former engineer at Lockheed Martin. He was in favor of pursuing the ambitious voyage, while others saw it as a waste of money.
But when asked about the military's interest in space, Lyles offered a unique perspective. "Space is the ultimate high ground," he said, explaining that our government always wants to be farther out than anyone else, mostly so that we can keep an eye on them.
For most of us, the solar system is a place to explore, but for the military it's another tactical space. That might seem like some sort of perversion of space's majesty, but it could be a good thing; if our evaporating interest in exploring for exploring's sake won't compel us to journey deeper into space, maybe our fanatical devotion to national defense will. [Smart Planet via Andrew Nusca]